Wednesday, November 22, 2017

G.O.A.T., the '70s, 29-21

Greetings, food-preppers and TV vegetators. It's the day before Thanksgiving and I've got a post that hopefully will last you the whole holiday.

Perhaps you've seen that map of the United States separated into regions according to the side dish that is most prominent on the Thanksgiving table. The Northeast was declared squash country. I've lived my whole life in the Northeast and have never had squash at Thanksgiving.

In fact, the whole map was filled with stuff I never eat at Thanksgiving -- macaroni and cheese, cornbread, salad. Here is a proper Thanksgiving table according to me:

STUFFING (in capital letters as it deserves to be)
Mashed potatoes
Sweet potatoes (I like the melted marshmallows on top)
Cranberry sauce
Green bean casserole (this comes from my wife's side of the family, it's OK)
Rolls of some sort
Pies (any kind will do, but pumpkin must be an option)

Most of these food traditions are rooted in the '70s when I was a kid. I like these foods. They make sense to me. As long as you're not using Stove Top stuffing (or good lord, putting raisins in it) and scrimping on the cinnamon in your pumpkin pie, then it's difficult to screw up.

Speaking of the '70s, it's time to turn my attention to the cards I collected then. I'm afraid this edition of the Greatest 100 Cards of the 1970s is only nine cards long because I goofed the last time and gave you an 11-card segment instead of 10 (I repeated the No. 32, perhaps some of you eagle-eyes caught that before I changed it).

But these are nine really good cards, so I think that makes up for it.

So, ready? Switch on the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special (it debuted in the '70s, of course), plop that paper pilgrim hat on your head, and give your mom a hand in the kitchen, please!

It's the greatest cards from the '70s, numbers 29-21:


Pete Rose, 1976 Topps, #240

There were few major league players more well-known to the general public in 1976 than Pete Rose. And, Rose, well, Rose was in your face.

In '76, Rose made his first on-air appearance for Aqua Velva aftershave, actually singing -- a ballplayer singing -- on television. Rose was everywhere. In the newspaper, on magazine covers, on your TV. He was an all-star, a World Series champion, that guy who runs to first base after every walk.

He was in your face.

The '76 Topps card of Rose is most appropriate. We could not possibly get any closer to Rose than we are with this card. There is Charlie Hustle, that pugnacious stare, the sideburns that won't quit, his own name brandished on his drop-down sunglasses, up close and personal.

I got tired very quickly of Rose being in my face. But I never tire of this card.


Jose Laboy, 1970 Topps, #238

I've mentioned earlier on this blog that there are several "bat-selecting" photos in 1970 Topps. They're all great. There's even another one on this countdown in Tony Taylor back at No. 94.

So what makes this bat-selecting card better than all the other bat-selecting cards in the '70 set?

It's quite obvious:

1. Expos uniform
2. rookie trophy
3. red shopping cart

I could add chain-link fence, freezing Expos coach sitting in the background, the fact Jose was more well-known as "Coco," the list goes on.

I fell in love with this card the minute I saw it. It's a well-established Cardboard Appreciation subject and deserves all of the praise that it gets. When I get down on the 1970 Topps set -- and I have plenty of times over the years -- I need to remember this card.


Joe Hoerner, 1976 SSPC, #456

Joe Hoerner died in a farm accident when he became pinned between a tractor and a tree. He was once involved in a boating accident that killed two people and injured others. The last pitch he threw in the majors hit a batter and the last thing he did on the field in a major league game was punch a player in the face. He survived numerous blackout scares on the mound, the result of heart problems that may have come from a debilitating car accident when he was a teenager.

Hoerner endured quite a bit in his life. So let him wear a sunhat if he wants.

Hoerner was also a well-known prankster, which is probably why we see him wearing a woman's hat. It is the most charming card in the entire 1976 SSPC set, which is known for its charm. Perhaps the best part of the image is how pensive Hoerner appears to be as he wears that very silly hat.


Bobby Bonds, 1976 Topps, #380

You may think this is ridiculous, but certain baseball cards come with their own sound. They are few and far between but this is one of them.

As a kid, I would look at Bonds' muscular arms and hear Bonds' bat shattering the card wall between me and him. I didn't need 3-D or holograms or whatever gadget card companies came up with to sell kids on cards 20, 30 years later. I had already seen a card that featured its own sound effect.

Bonds was a Yankee, he had just completed his first season with the Yankees. Because this was a Yankee card, I could only stare at it from afar. I didn't get to own many Yankees cards because I was surround by their fans and they always demanded them from me. I didn't much care, but I sure wanted this particular card.

I don't think I ever owned it until I was completing the 1976 set several years ago. When I did obtain it, I could hear that noise all over again.

It's a mighty card. One of the mightiest of the '70s.


Hank Aaron, 1974 Topps, #1

No doubt, this is a great piece of cardboard.

But I am obsessed with it for two reasons.

First, I feel that Aaron was robbed of a card that looks like all the other cards in the 1974 set. Sure, I know, he was on the cusp of the greatest achievement that baseball had ever known at that point in time, but wouldn't you want a regular card of Aaron, too, to mark his place in time with all of the other Aaron cards?

Second, I am perpetually amazed at the assumptions made with this card.

Sure, Aaron was just two home runs away from setting the career home run record at the end of the 1973 season. If he played in 1974, and his contract said he would, then he'd break the record.

But he was still two home runs away when the 1974 cards were starting to be created. And Topps had already declared him the new all-time home run king! On the first card in the set! What if Aaron -- perish the thought -- got hit by a bus in the offseason? He was getting death threats by the end of the '73 season! That had to be common knowledge, right? It seems like a risk taken that was totally out of character with what Topps had done prior.

The back makes the assumption, too. "Hank becomes baseball's all-time homer king in 1974." Not "will become," not "likely will be," but "becomes."

Fortunately, it did happen. And that's why this card is tremendous and worthy of the countdown. But there had to be some Topps people sweating bullets when cards were being made between the 1973 and 1974 seasons.


Fred Lynn, 1975 Topps, #50

Fred Lynn is the first rookie sensation that I ever knew.

Lynn won the Rookie of the Year Award and the AL MVP award in 1975. No one had ever done that before. As a kid in a Red Sox family (dad and brother Red Sox fans), that was some powerful stuff. Fred Lynn's image on a three-foot poster soon appeared next to my brother's bed.

Lynn's first solo card was highly coveted. The fact that it was an action card made it much more amazing than the card of the other half of "the Gold Dust Twins," Jim Rice. (Still a fine card, by the way).

Star Wars wouldn't become public knowledge until trailers of the movie appeared in the fall of 1976, but Lynn's bat appeared to be a light saber in his hands. A light saber or a scythe. Clearly, Lynn was doing damage with that thing (although he likely has just fouled a ball into the dugout).

I also liked the red theme that travels through the entire card, from the border, to the then-new-style Red Sox uniform, to the card base.

This was the beginning of an appreciation for the Red Sox that continued until they won it all in 2004 (the interest is somewhat diminished since, but they'll always be "good guys" to me).


Billy Martin, 1972 Topps, #33

I wasn't collecting cards in 1972. Too young. But if I was, I'll bet I would have missed Billy Martin's middle-finger address to the photographer.

I don't know if Martin was intending for kids to miss the gesture. I don't know if he thought this photo would end up being cut. I do know that Martin probably didn't think of any of that or even think his gesture meant anything other than signaling a temporary annoyance with something -- who knows what -- from the perpetually bothered Billy Martin.

But it's interesting to come up with scenarios of what potentially happened. Was the photographer being too intrusive? Had Martin admonished him repeatedly? Was it one of those deals where Martin suddenly noticed he was the target of a picture, thought, "oh, fuck that" and instantly stuck out his middle digit?

There are those who believe Martin is merely resting his finger on the bat. No big deal.

Having grown up with Martin in the news, I don't believe that for a second.


Roberto Clemente, 1972 Topps, #309

It's a little bit sad that some of Roberto Clemente's greatest cards are some of his last cards. At the pace he was going at, imagine the later cards! That 1975 Topps Clemente would have been a doozy!

I like this '72 Clemente a lot, it's probably my favorite Clemente card. The casual ball toss almost always makes for a great card, but it's particularly interesting here as Clemente was perceived as a serious individual. The photo contrasts with the perception.

It adds to the fun of what it is a very fun set, 1972 Topps.


Oscar Gamble, 1975 Topps, #213

If someone were to come up to me and ask me, "what were the 1970s all about?", I would hand them Oscar Gamble's 1975 Topps card and proclaim "THIS!"

If they asked me to clarify further, I'd just keep repeating "THIS!"

Is it the Mickey Mouse ears afro? "THIS!" Is it the sideburns and mustache? "THIS!" Is it the neon pink and yellow border? "THIS!"

This card is so of the '70s that it could not appear in any other decade. It would be laughed at in any other decade. Oscar Gamble would be laughed at in any other decade (he toned down his act as the '80s progressed).

Oscar Gamble and 1975 Topps came along at the exact right time to make one of the most wonderful cards that I have ever seen. I pulled this card during the very first year I collected as a 9-year-old during the summer of 1975.

It looked 100 percent normal to me.

That concludes the latest edition of the countdown. Just 20 more cards to go!

I hope everyone enjoys their Thanksgiving, no matter what they eat or how they celebrate. Even you people eating salad.


  1. Oscar Gamble, 1975 Topps, #213. Gotta love it.

  2. Laboy, Hank, Billy, Roberto are the great cards of the 1970s

  3. Agree. Never understood why Aaron didn't get a regular issue card in 74 and never liked this card that was issued. It doesn't fit with any collection. Staying in line with the season, it's a "turkey". Great pick on the 76 Rose.

  4. Torture is best described as: Opening packs in April of 1974 and getting the Aaron "special" subset cards 2-6 in advance of getting card #1. What did it look like? Upon receipt, no complaints. Perhaps the buildup was worth the wait.

  5. #1: Stuffing
    #2: Mashed Potatoes w/Gravy
    #3: Sticky Rice w/Gravy
    #4: Dark Meat Turkey

    Repeat #1 through 4 at least once, then when you're just about to explode, proceed to #5.

    #5: Pumpkin Pie

    P.S. That Gamble is fantastic!

  6. You’ve got an amazing list going here. Every time I get to the last one I feel like I keep saying “what’s gonna top that?” That Gamble card SCREAMS 70’s for sure.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. Squash? I'm glad you share my incredulity over that one; otherwise I'd be thinking it's one of those "Upstate New York things".

    Fine card choices all around. The only one I don't already own is the 1972 Clemente, and that's only because conquering the 1972 set is a low-enough priority that - for now - I'm willing to wait for a deal to come along.

    ...And the only way that Gamble card could've been more 1970's is if Oscar were wearing the Indians' red alternate jersey.

  8. Never had squash, or mac and cheese with my turkey dinner...Canada or the US.

    That being said, I had never even thought about Aaron not having a regular card in the '74 set until now. Guess it just never dawned on me...

    Happy Thanksgiving to you Night Owl and to all here in the United States.

  9. Are you kidding me? When that 74 Aaron came out my buddies and I would open packs and if some one pulled that card we'd scream as if we won that "golden ticket"!!! I don't any Topps cards or packs has illicited such reactions since 1974!!